The North Pacific Trash Vortex
Every year, 15 billion pounds of plastic are produced in the U.S., but only 1 billion are recycled. Where does the rest end up? Well, unfortunately, some of it finds its way into our oceans, where it joins plastic and trash from around the world and is swept up in currents to make its way here, the trash vortex of Hawaii. The vortex is a vast collection of trash, mostly plastic, that has reached the size of Texas in proportion. It is made up of everything from tiny pieces of plastic debris to large ghost nets lost by the fishing industry.
As trash swirls through the world's oceans to a handful of vortexes like this, it leaves a trail of death and destruction along its path. That's because plastic contains toxic chemicals, and as animals mistake the plastic for food, they are exposed to these toxics. And as plastic accumulates in the digestive tract, many animals essentially choke on plastic intake. Others starve to death from a lack of nutrition. And even uneaten, trash like ghost nets ensnares and traps thousands of creatures from fish to sea turtles and dolphins.
So how does all of this trash make it out to sea? It comes from a variety of sources, from the litter you see on the streets to industrial waste. Every time it rains, pollution of all kinds washes from land into storm drains and rivers, eventually reaching the ocean. Once there, the long-lasting qualities of plastic mean that it remains in the ecosystem for decades, and as more trash accumulates, our oceans and the inhabitants within them are facing a crisis.
What YOU Can Do:
We're all responsible for this mess, and it will take all of us to clean it up.
- Every time you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
- Recycle, reduce, reuse - you've heard it before, but now you know what happens when you don't. Be sure to avoid products with excessive packaging and bring a reusable bag to the grocery store.
- Every time you purchase or find a plastic six-pack holder, be sure to cut each ring and properly dispose of it. In the ocean, these rings expand and can ensnare or choke wildlife.
- Talk trash to your friends and family - people can't change what they don't know about, so spread the word!